Sunday, 3 December 2017

Emma's Review: Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances by Sue Watson

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

A year after she separated from her husband, Gianni, on Christmas day, Chloe’s heart is finally on the mend as she unpacks the decorations for her first ever festive holiday alone. That is, until the phone rings…

It’s the manager of Gianni’s new seaside restaurant in Appledore, begging for Chloe’s help. Equally famous for his gold-leaf Christmas puddings and his explosive temper, Gianni has been really stirring up a sensation with the locals – and not in a good way! It’s the last thing she wants to do, but Chloe knows she is the only one that can help.

As pans fly and the temperature in the kitchen rises, Chloe’s calming influence and magic touch might just get critics back on side in time to save the restaurant from sinking like a sad soufflé. But as Chloe’s eyes meet Gianni’s as they tussle over a plate of turkey tartlets, could there also be a chance for new romance on the menu? 

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Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

If there was an award for the best Christmas titles for books Sue Watson would certainly win it hands down as her titles are always so ingenious and full of laugh out loud humour. Combined with such brilliant, witty chapter headings I always know I am guaranteed a fun, festive read full or frolics, mayhem and mishaps. This new book Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances I would have said before I started reading that is would be no different but I feel now I have finished it that it is slightly different. Yes we have the brilliant anecdotes that have you laughing and cringing in equal measure but at the same time I felt there was a far more serious tone to the story as our main female protagonist Chloe is going through major changes in her life. This time will either make or break Chloe and her marriage. She is not sure of the outcome she wants but returning to Appledore a place which holds so many cherished memories but also devastating blows for her will stir up an entire myriad of emotions that will cause unrest and uncertainty but hopefully may eventually give her the clarification and reaffirmation she is so desperately searching for.

When I discovered this was the third visit to Appledore, I'll admit I was slightly apprehensive about reading this book as I really don't like starting series several books in. Now after finishing this story, I can say it can easily be read as a standalone book. Yes I could gather which previously introduced characters made a reappearance but it wasn't in a dominant way as to make you feel god I can't follow the plot of this book or I've missed out on heaps. They were there more as a supportive system to Chloe as she develops a friendship with the people who run the local ice cream parlour. If there were more books to come in the Appledore series I would read them but I don't necessarily feel I need to go back and read the previous two to enhance my reading and understanding as there was plenty of info here to bring me bang up to date.

The entire story of Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances is told in the first person from Chloe's point of view and to be honest it did tend to wear on me ever so slightly after awhile. I would have loved to have heard from fiery Italian Gianni's viewpoint as to his whole take on the situation. It's very difficult to pull off a book entirely in the first person, it worked for some of the time here but just past the halfway point I felt it needed a change just to freshen things up a bit. Chloe is a character who certainly evokes both sympathy and frustration in the reader. The story moves back and forth between the past and the present as told by Chloe. We are given an insight as to how she met and eventually married chef Gianni. In the present Chloe is dreading Christmas. She feels that she has nothing to look forward to, that her life has ended and that things will never be the same again. She recalls the first time she met Gianni in the Harrods food hall as she was trying to promote his unusual range of Christmas delicacies. There was a spark between the pair but it seriously threatened to turn into a huge fire and not of the good kind.

Over the course of the story Chloe tells us how they met, fell in love, fell out of love, distance grew between them and now they have reached the point of divorce. But is this what Chloe really wants? Or is it just an attempt to push things to one side? To paper over the cracks without working things through and openly expressing feelings and emotions.  A chance phone call just before Christmas that presents her with a job opportunity sees Chloe torn in two over whether to accept. This will see her having to confront the emotions, issues and reasons behind the deep resentment and hurt existing between herself and Gianni. Returning to Appledore, to the cottage she shared with Gianni during their marriage, and now trying to help turn around the fortunes of his restaurant is a huge undertaking and will set in motion a chain of events that will either make or break her.

Gianni was a character who I did not like at all. Yes I understood the way he was meant to be portrayed but honestly I couldn't see what Chloe saw in him. He was ever so stubborn, always demanding his own way creating fancy concoctions that would be best suited to a Heston Blumenthal restaurant. He came across as a Gordon Ramsey or Marco Pierre White type full of fire and ambition but with scant regard to the people around him. Constantly throwing insults around and creating a new restaurant in Appledore that was so stark and sterile which did little to enamour him to the local residents. He was full of so much bravado that I wondered how did Chloe ever crack his exterior to see was there a different more hospitable Gianni underneath?

Chloe on the one hand was brave to take on Gianni again and help promote the restaurant and try and make it a success. She has to come up with creative ways which could make the restaurant more welcoming and attractive for costumers. Out goes the snail semolina and in comes more traditional, authentic Italian dishes. As she was dreading Christmas, was going back to Appledore the best thing for her? Would the entire situation drag her backwards when she was so desperately trying to move forwards? Maybe fate had a different plan in store for the pair. As Gianni begins to soften and produce dishes that are welcomed with open arms the reader wondered whether the same could be said for his and Chloe's relationship?

This book wasn't full on Christmas, more it was lingering in the background as a secondary character as Chloe faces the biggest challenge in her life both personally and professionally. There was a real sense of the main characters coming back together, attempting to whether the storm against the background of Christmas and the snow covering the ground in Appledore. What was brilliant as ever in Sue Watson's Christmas books was the mouthwatering descriptions of food. Whilst reading you would certainly want some nice treats to hand to indulge in. Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances was a good read. It had the humour yet Chloe was a character who had been through a lot and Sue portrayed this very well. Will you be rooting for Chloe and Gianni? Well I was, it's up to you to read to discover the eventual outcome. Enjoy this book for what it is a fun, festive read that really will get you in the Christmas frame of mind.

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